The baby showers are planned, the list of potential names chosen, the nursery painted. Baby is on the way, and a family is overjoyed.
Sometimes, however, nature has other plans, and a couple is left to cope with a miscarriage.
Miscarriage, or the loss of a pregnancy before the 20th week, is the most common pregnancy complication. About 15 to 20 percent of recognized pregnancies end this way [source: WebMD].
How is a pregnancy lost? Most are caused by chromosome problems in the fetus that won't allow it to develop as it should, according to Medline Plus. Some other possible causes are hormone problems, certain diseases or disorders (such as uncontrolled diabetes, lupus and congenital heart disease), abnormalities of the uterus or cervix and infection. The age of the mother is also a factor, with older mothers facing an increased risk. In many cases, we simply don't know why the baby didn't survive.
Most miscarriages (80 percent of them) happen early in a pregnancy, sometimes before a woman even realizes she's pregnant [source: WebMD]. This is why many women wait until the first trimester is over to announce their happy news -- there's a much better chance that the baby will live.
The fact that miscarriages are common doesn't make one any easier to deal with emotionally. A well-meaning friend or family member will surely say just the wrong thing in an attempt at consolation, and a doctor who's seen many miscarriages and thinks of them as fairly routine may neglect to realize a woman needs time to grieve.
The truth is that the emotional aftermath of a miscarriage is different for each woman. If a woman felt ambivalent about the pregnancy, she may secretly be relieved. For some, it's a setback in the quest for a healthy baby, and feelings of sadness last for a short while. For others, it's devastating.
The range of emotions can include anger, fear, disbelief, guilt and feelings of emptiness and inadequacy. There is less research on a male partner's reaction, but studies have shown that a solid support system is key to a woman's emotional recovery [source: Swanson].
But what about physically? Does having one miscarriage make it harder to try again for a baby?